Coal energy, natural gas and environment

Those who oppose shale gas explorations and drilling to pump it to surface as too expensive and prone to damage the environment, maintain that shale gas does more damage to the environment. To their support, come the  recent researches which reveal that this clean and green energy as was previously claimed is not even as clean as coal but much worse than that. Its now being reported that shale gas [natural] does in no way meet the 3 E yardsticks i.e. energy, economy and environment.



by Nayyar Hashmey


Natural gas is the product of drilling different type of soils. Chemically this gas is a mixture of methane [which is the principal component] along with some minor proportions of other gases like ethane, propane and butane. In Pakistan what we call Sui gas is also the natural gas which is mainly found in the sandy rock formations in the Sui area of Balochistan.

A similar type of natural gas is also found in shale rock formations. These rocks are totally impervious, hence need strong external agents to break these rocks so that the water bound gas in these formations is released to pump it out to desired locations including our homes. Controversies still rage in the US and Canada. Some industry experts even name this as a wunderkind as against the other fossilized fuels conventionally available to modern societies.
The opponents of these experts are those who consider the shale gas explorations and drilling to pump it to surface as too expensive and prone to damage the environment perhaps more than the coal fired power plants. To support their apprehensions, researchers have come with their recent findings which reveal that this clean and green energy as was previously claimed is not even as clean as coal but much worse than that. Its now being reported that shale gas [natural] does in no way meet the 3 E yardsticks i.e. energy, economy and environment.
Now this much about the origin of the natural gas and its claim being a clean energy. Lately there has been a good amount of discussions in our print and the electronic media, particularly on the feasibility and cleanliness of Coal gas as compared to other sources. I do not know much about what others are saying in this regard but Zaheer-ud-din Jeddy, a former Auditor General of Pakistan, is one of those strong opponents of Thar coal project. Jeddy though has been engaged in a terribly dry realm of auditing, yet he has a tremendously good taste of so many other interests such as poetry, notwithstanding many good and beautiful things he has in his mind. Our policy makers could learn a lot from him [IF THEY DO WANT TO LEARN????]

Now Jeddy started a thing, an email platform [on the pattern of Yahoo Group] but as against most of the Search Engine based groups like Google and Yahoo, his email circle is very private and personal, and therefore gives full freedom to its participants as they deem appropriate and what they think is good for our dear homeland Pakistan.

Interestingly Jeddy like me is a former Chemistry man. He taught Organic Chemistry to the masters clauses at the University of Karachi [Dr. Ata-ur- Rehman, the former chairman of HEC and an eminent scientist of Pakistan is one of his illustrious students].

Like Zaheer Jeddy, I too had a brief stint with teaching of Textile Chemistry to the graduate classes of the then Institute of Textile Technology in Faisalabad. [The Institute is now a full fledged University of Textile Sciences]. Well dear readers, that’s all about the things me and Zaheer-ud-Din Jeddy share with each other. But then there is an issue between the two of us where both of us have totally divergent views. Jeddy believes that Thar Cal will create havoc with our environment. Its true of course, in this respect all types of hydrocarbons [the fossilized fuels] are the enemies of the environment. But the living styles we have adopted for ourselves now, puts a heavy burden on our energy resources.

We cannot think of going back to the life sans electricity, sans energy to heat our homes in winters and cool them in summers. Then to prepare our basic stuff that enables us to live, I mean bread and our meals. We do have so many ills of course that plague our environment, but just because of these ills, we cannot do away with our gas, coal and hydel resources.

There are other types too, namely the nuclear, wind, and solar energies. All these energies do have a future for us. But at the moment all these different types of energys have certain limitations. Hence what we need to do is to evolve a proper energy mix including the dirty coal as well to burn the flames in our homes and in our factories including the blue flamed ‘clean and green’ natural gas. We need to do this till we successfully develop sufficient power generation based on comparatively less hazardous energy resources.

Anyway there are strong pros and cons in adopting or rejecting a specific approach toward solving our energy issues. It was in this very context that I came across this report on the negative side of natural gas. As already said, shale gas and the common natural gas are chemically the same [quite minor differences they do have though] but as far as their chemical composition is concerned, its the same.

While delving into this issue I could not find much and authentic information on the burning efficiency of Shale vs. Sui gas, but I do believe there shouldn’t be much difference between the two.

Following this note, are two posts. One is on Shale gas and its impact on environment. Another one is by RM Hafeez who made an on the spot study of theThar Coal project.

Those of you who have an interest in this subject [including of course the participants in Jeddy’s email group are welcome to offer their comment / s, no matter they are in favour or against. And if you are interested to have a look at some more but very informative graphics on the subject, see Hafeez’s article where it has originally been posted. [here]

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  1. Natural gas is combusted to generate electricity, enabling this stored energy to be oxides and carbon dioxide, but in lower quantities than burning coal or oil.Lower natural gas prices, higher coal prices, slower economic growth, and the implementation of environmental rules all play a role.

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